September 5th – 8th, 2012 | Oswiecim, Poland
General Assembly of the International Auschwitz Committee
Report on the General Assembly
Central challenge: the meaning and the preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial
From 5 to 8 September, survivors of the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz/Birkenau gathered together in Oswiecim/Auschwitz. The survivors, who came from eleven different countries, met for the fourteenth General Assembly of the International Auschwitz Committee (IAC).
The IAC was founded in Oswiecim/Auschwitz in1952.
Many messages were received, including those sent by the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and the Presidents of Poland and Germany, Bronislaw Komorowski and Joachim Gauck. The messages thanked the survivors for their tireless commitment over many decades in the fight against anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism and against the exclusion and persecution of Sinti and Roma in Europe. The messages expressed special praise for the survivors’ educational involvement – their abiding resolve to meet with young people, their constant encouragement to defend human rights and to motivate democracies. The survivors and the foundations that they have established still feel themselves closely allied with the United Nations in this work.
The central challenge for the survivors of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps is the meaning and the preservation of the authentic place, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial. The Memorial is of crucial significance for the future of humanity, as a cemetery, a crime scene and a memorial. The survivors thanked the management and all of the staff at the Memorial for their dedicated efforts and the difficult work involved in preserving the authentic places where they, the survivors and their families once suffered or were murdered. At the same time they stressed their legitimate right to be involved in the future work and the shaping of the memorial, especially in Birkenau. They want their voices to be heard and recognised more than before in this dialogue, together with their national organisations and within the framework of the International Auschwitz Committee.
This also applies to the proposals that were worked out in France on how to shape the form of remembering the murder of the European Jews in Birkenau.
The survivors of Auschwitz are deeply concerned about the financial and staffing situations at numerous other memorials in Europe dedicated to remembering the crimes of German National Socialism.
In this context, Germany still has a special obligation to support the work of these institutions. But the European institutions are also urged to intervene with their help in this area.
In this respect we welcome the mutual work with the Czech ESLI Institute and the German Federal Advisory and Information Association for Victims of Nazi Persecution to carry out a Europe-wide survey on the situation of the memorials and so call attention to them.
The International Auschwitz Committee also specifically recalled and emphasized the Terezin Declaration of June 2009 which states that all survivors of the Holocaust and all victims of Nazi persecution “have reached an advanced age and that it is imperative to respect their personal dignity and to deal with their social welfare needs, as an issue of utmost urgency”. We welcome the intention of the ESLI Institute to prepare an intergovernmental conference on this in Brussels. We call on all national governments who have accepted the Terezin Declaration, to strengthen the social security of the survivors.
The Auschwitz survivors are following the current situation of Sinti and Roma in Europe with grave concern. Between exclusion, persecution and threat, Europe has in many countries neglected to accept and protect Sinti and Roma as citizens with equal rights. We feel deep empathy with the Sinti and Roma who suffered the same fate as the Jews in Auschwitz.
The same applies to the recurrent flare-ups of latent anti-Semitism within European societies. The threat to Jewish people, including children, is an everyday occurrence. This shocks and outrages us.
We also find it extremely disturbing that young people in Europe are expressing contempt and hatred towards Jews, and towards survivors of the Holocaust, and that they are meanwhile engaging in increasing numbers of personal attacks on the streets of towns and cities.
This ascertainment has nothing to do with stigmatisation; it describes a fact that calls for a definite response by the societies of Europe.
For us, the survivors of the German concentration camps, Europe and the United Nations are a major project. Both are the ongoing attempt to find answers to the horrors of World War II and the German crimes in those years of the Holocaust.
We hope that the European project does not suffocate in the current financial turbulence, nor lose its vision of freedom and human dignity for all.
It is for this reason that the democrats of Europe need to act decisively against the enemies of democracy and to combat fascist parties.
We are grateful to the German government for productive, and critical, cooperation. Above all, we are grateful for the right of hospitality and the financial support that our committee receives in Germany.
The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany supported the General Assembly.
Many newspapers, magazines, news sites and broadcasting companies in Germany, Switzerland and Austria have covered the General Assembly, which was held in Poland.
Among those were: Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, Financial Times Deutschland, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, ORF, stern.de, Augsburger Allgemeine, Abendzeitung München, Focus, Giessener Allgemeine, Stuttgarter Zeitung, Hannoversche Allgemeine, Weser Kurier, Neue Presse, Kieler Nachrichten, Ruhr Nachrichten, Märkische Oderzeitung, Halterner Zeitung, Emsdettener Volkszeitung.